Salceda seeks TRO vs LTFRB's provincial bus ban

Albay Governor Joey Salceda is seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Supreme Court (SC) on a memorandum circular issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) which bans provincial buses within Manila area.

Bicol provincial buses
Taking the cudgels for provincial bus commuters and operators, Salceda said the circular limiting South Luzon buses up to Alabang only lacks empirical basis with no prior notice and consultation, and imposes undue burden and inconvenience among provincial commuters.

The Petition for Prohibition and/or Mandamus, a special civil action provided under Sections 2 and 3, Rule 65 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, was filed September 1 by Salceda at the High Tribunal, against the LTFRB, which issued the ban, the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). It is docketed as GR No. 213789.

The petition “assails the constitutionality of, among others, Memorandum Circular Nos. 2014-015 entitled ‘Defining the Metro Manila endpoints of Provincial Public Utility Buses originating from Southern Luzon, Bicol and Visayas to Metro Manila as the endpoints of their current routes and for other purposes.”

The application for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction said “the respondents acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction … without taking into consideration the economic disruption, inconvenience, expenses and damages they may cause” to the petitioners.

Salceda said his move brings to the High Tribunal’s concern the right of thousands of passengers commuting from Albay to Metro Manila and operators of some 235 bus units with Albay-Metro Manila franchises.

Bus operators based in Albay recently signed affidavits to attest there was “no prior consultation and hearing” before the implementation of the ban. Salceda said the TRO he seeks is on behalf of the provincial government, the bus companies and commuters.

Salceda said the LTFRB circular clearly violates Section 1 of Article III of the Bill of Rights, which states that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.”

“If you limit the access of the carrier, you also limit the access of the passenger. Thus Albayano traders and commuters, especially those who cannot afford more expensive air transportation, are being deprived of their mobility,” he pointed out.

The ban, according to Salceda, “shifts the burden of inconvenience to provincial commuters, particularly students and traders and ordinary families with relatives in Metro Manila as they will now have to transfer to another mode of transportation, paying extra fares.”

He added that prohibiting provincial buses in the National Capital Region will not solve the area’s traffic problems. Instead, they should have managed the 800,000 utility vehicles, 400,000 cars, 120,000 trucks and 1.4 million tricycles fighting for every available space in the streets of Metro Manila.

“Look at the statistics: 2.8 million vehicles in Metro Manila versus 1,500 South Luzon buses and another 2,500 north-bound. Of these south-bound buses, 236 are from Albay plying the Albay-Metro Manila route,” he noted.

In fact, Salceda, said registered buses have gone down from 30,113 in 2007 to 5,653 in 2012 — almost at the bottom of their cycle. There are in fact more diplomatic vehicles at 3,060 or trailers at 18,000 (40 percent of 32,240).

The South Station terminal, set up by the local government near the viaduct in Filinvest in Alabang, will be used by an estimated 556 buses coming from Bicol and the Visayas banned from plying Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue and other Metro Manila roads.

The opening of the terminal was originally scheduled for August 20 but was postponed due to lack of coordination among the agencies involved.

The ban has met various oppositions, mostly from operators and commuters, and the Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines has referred to it as a "band aid" solution to a serious ailment. (PNA) LAP/JCN/UTB

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